The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan: A rollercoaster ride full of mystery, menace, and mind-bending plot twists - book review -
A family holiday on the north-west coast of France comes to an abrupt end for Siobhan Dillon when the police arrive to arrest her husband Callum on suspicion of murder.
Hundreds of miles away, the body of Caroline Harvey has been found draped over a cot in an Ipswich house… and the baby girl she was babysitting has disappeared. Who was Caroline, and how did Callum even know her?
Get ready to be bewitched and bamboozled as Phoebe Morgan, one of the smartest authors currently writing domestic noir thrillers, takes readers on a rollercoaster ride full of mystery, menace, and her trademark mind-bending plot twists.
Morgan, who edits commercial fiction for a publishing house by day and writes her own books in the evenings, has a gift for delving into the deepest, darkest corners of family relationships and this chilling story of secrets, infidelity and betrayals fulfils all the ingredients on any crime fan’s wish list.
It should be a dream holiday for the Dillon family from Ipswich. Television executive Callum, his wife Siobhan and their 16-year-old daughter Emma are enjoying the delights of Siobhan’s sister Maria Wilcox’s luxury villa on the French coast as a heatwave grips Europe.
At the age of forty-six, Maria is unmarried and likes to be ‘the mistress of my own life’ while her younger sister is hugging a lot of secrets to herself and knows that this holiday is to be either the ‘sticking plaster’ that keeps her family together, or the catalyst to tearing it apart.
Meanwhile, Emma, whose grades and behaviour at school have been causing concern, is increasingly withdrawn and angry, even on a sunshine holiday, and Siobhan can’t help but notice that Callum, a man used to getting his own way, is full of nervous energy and has a ‘a pulse of unease’ that is troubling her.
Across the Channel, Caroline Harvey had been looking after baby Eve Geras for her friend Jenny and husband Rick after a close member of their family was taken ill. Caroline’s life is ‘a well of loneliness.’ Everything she wants seems to be out of reach, and Jenny and Rick represent everything that she hasn’t got.
And when Caroline is found stabbed to death, baby Eve missing, and Callum facing a murder charge, Siobhan’s perfect family is soon torn apart by the media in the nation’s frantic search for the missing child.
On the case is DS Alex Wildy who will have to use all his skill and experience if he is to find out what happened on that fateful night, and determine if Caroline was as innocent as she seemed, or hiding a secret of her own.
Morgan keeps us guessing from first page to last in this enthralling, tightly-plotted, suspense thriller as small but hidden truths are slowly revealed, red herrings test our own detective skills, and a multi-stranded narrative, which constantly shifts between past and present, plays havoc with our perceptions.
The fascinating dynamics of female relationships lie at the heart of this cleverly constructed mystery as the man-in-the middle – the canny Alex Wildy – faces the task of unravelling a web of secrets and lies.
From the needy Caroline and long-suffering Siobhan to emotionally unstable teenager Emma, and cool and collected Maria, these are complex characters whose lives, loves and fraught interactions are explored with Morgan’s forensic eye for psychological detail.
Fast-paced, brimming with intrigue, and with one final twist to blow all your theories out of the water, The Babysitter is so addictive that it may well be consumed in a single sitting!
(HQ, paperback, £7.99)